Monday Musings: Vying for Baramati, will BJP succeed in 2024?

Published on Aug 08, 2022 04:08 PM IST

Ahead of the 2024 elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leaving no stone unturned and is now eyeing Baramati seat, the stronghold of Sharad Pawar, which the Pawar family members have retained for the past five and half decades

A flex billboard put up in support of Sharad Pawar at Baramati. (HT FILE PHOTO)
A flex billboard put up in support of Sharad Pawar at Baramati. (HT FILE PHOTO)

Ahead of the 2024 elections, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leaving no stone unturned and is now eyeing Baramati seat, the stronghold of Sharad Pawar, which the Pawar family members have retained for the past five and half decades.

This time BJP has begun its preparations well in advance to avoid last minute rush, and as a part of that preparation, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be visiting Baramati between August 16 and 18.

Sitharaman’s three-day visit to Baramati is a part of BJP’s ‘Pravas’ campaign across the country. The saffron party has launched the campaign to strengthen its organisation in 144 Lok Sabha constituencies ahead of the 2024 elections. Of the 144 constituencies, the party has identified 16 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra with two of them - Baramati and Shirur - from Pune district.

This isn’t the first time BJP is trying hard to snatch the Baramati seat from Pawars, a relatively developed town in the eastern parts with a distance of 110 kilometres from Pune.

For BJP, winning Baramati is crucial to strike hard and stop Pawar’s political journey. So, when Amit Shah came to Baramati to campaign and support the then BJP candidate Kanchan Kul in the 2019 LS polls, the Union home minister appealed to party workers to “hit where the roots are.” Baramati has a maximum share in NCP’s larger political messaging. Of the four Lok Sabha seats that NCP won including Raigad, Shirur, and Satara, Pawar’s hometown plays a crucial role in its narrative as a “development-oriented” party.

Senior Pawar was first elected from Baramati in 1967 and since then till 2009, he has represented this seat either in the state assembly or Lok Sabha. Since Pawar decided to move away from electoral politics, his daughter Supriya has been representing it.

In 2019, BJP had put up all its might to defeat Sule, but her hard work paid off and the margin of her victory increased from around 70,000 votes in 2014 to 1.54 lakh votes. It was in 2014, Rashriya Samaj Party leader Mahadev Jankar had given her a tough fight, raising BJP’s hope of winning the seat.

Baramati stands tall as a shining example of Pawar’s multi-faceted development initiatives in rural parts. It has a large number of industrial units, which employ at least 40,000 people from the region.

Moreover, the agriculture research centre - Krishi Vigyan Kendra - and Pawar’s education institute Vidya Pratisthan has brought changes in people’s lives, something that Pawar has often used to showcase elsewhere to project that his party stands for development.

So, BJP leaders believe that if the party manages to defeat Sule in 2024, it will be a big setback for Pawar- perhaps an end to his long and successful career. On paper, defeating Pawars on their home turf isn’t an impossible mission for BJP since two of the six assembly segments - Daund and Khadakwasla - under this Lok Sabha seat are already with BJP. The party is also confident of winning the third segment - Purandar - this time, and the fourth one - Indapur -can offer major support to BJP in its bigger scheme of things given that Harshawardhan Patil is on their side now.

But is it indeed feasible? For many decades, BJP never really fought elections in Baramati seriously. Every time the party searched for candidates at the last moment effort and fielded them only to lose, often not even repeating them by giving hope and time for investing in strengthening the party unit at the local level.

Local political observers have often recounted that during elections, BJP used to field a candidate just for the sake of fighting polls and to forestall criticism that on one hand, it’s targeting Pawar elsewhere, but not contesting in the Baramati seat. In 2014, things changed and Narendra Modi-Amit Shah altered the rules of game for the party. Modi himself came here to campaign and targeted the Pawar family members.

But that was it.

After losing the elections - be it in 2014 or 2019 - the town was never on the party’s radar to improve its organisational structure here. In fact, when there are no elections, many senior leaders including Modi, Arun Jaitley, and Venkaiah Naidu visited this place and praised Pawar for his vision of development visible through Baramati.

It is perhaps for the first time BJP, even as a part of the national campaign has decided to focus on Baramati seat much ahead of polls and ensure giving time to local workers to work on the ground. Moreover, the party wants to send a message that it is serious about winning the Baramati seat.

Will the efforts pay off? That time will tell.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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